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Sorry, nerds: Fraternity brothers have more fulfilling lives later on

Beyond toga parties, Greek membership might have benefits later in life.
Beyond toga parties, Greek membership might have benefits later in life.
Eric McCandless/Disney ABC via Getty Images
Libby Nelson is Vox's policy editor, leading coverage of how government action and inaction shape American life. Libby has more than a decade of policy journalism experience, including at Inside Higher Ed and Politico. She joined Vox in 2014.

Researchers at Gallup believe they found a formula for a good life after college, and students in fraternities and sororities are more likely to follow it than most.

The polling firm interviewed tens of thousands of college graduates about their well-being after college. They found a few steps students can take in college that predict whether they will be thriving financially, socially, and in the workplace after they graduate. Put simply: "Find professors who excite you and make you care. Get very involved in an activity. Find a mentor. Get an internship. Work on a long-term project."

Students who were in fraternities and sororities were more likely to do all five — and more likely to say they had a sense of purpose at work, that they had strong connections to friends and family, and that they like where they live, Gallup said this week.

It's not clear if students fared well because they were in a fraternity and sorority, or for other reasons. The results held even when controlling for socioeconomic background, race, and gender, and researchers previously found that the type of college (public or private, selective or not) didn't matter very much to graduates' future happiness.

Still, it's possible that the type of students who join fraternities and sororities are also more inclined to make personal connections with professors and to get involved in extracurriculars in the first place, or that students at colleges with Greek life are more likely to be happy after graduation than students at colleges without, regardless of whether they pledge. Students who participate in Greek organizations are also less likely to have debt, researchers found.

The results indicate that despite the bad reputation Greek life can have for drinking, hazing, and sexual assault, the experience is a positive one for many students — and that reforms to sororities and fraternities should preserve the factors that correlate with students' later well-being, said Brandon Busteed, executive director of Gallup Education, in a report on the findings.

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